Bird fanciers take flight in face of floods

Fairlie goose breeder Lauren Spicer prepares to travel north, from Dunedin’s National Poultry,...
Fairlie goose breeder Lauren Spicer prepares to travel north, from Dunedin’s National Poultry, Pigeon and Cage Bird Show, on Saturday after a red warning on weather. PHOTOS: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Predicted heavy rain and flooding in Canterbury meant "heart-breaking" but unavoidable disruption to a big national poultry and cage bird show in Dunedin at the weekend.

Dunedin Poultry, Pigeon and Cage Bird Club junior vice-president Phil Hill announced shortly before noon on Saturday that bird fanciers who lived in the affected area, particularly Canterbury, could take their birds away immediately, because of safety issues.

The rare code red flood alert for Canterbury meant many bird fanciers had to take flight much earlier than when the National Poultry, Pigeon and Cage Bird Show officially ended yesterday.

Mr Hill remained unflappable and said that initially releasing about 500 of the show’s 1500 entries from the Forrester Park show was a "heart-breaking" move, and up to 750 birds had gone by noon yesterday.

However, it was clearly the right decision because of the weather-related safety threats not just to some of the birds in the show, but also, potentially, to the human participants, particularly those from Canterbury.

Other animals, including farm animals, which show participants were responsible for during extreme weather events elsewhere in the country, also had to be protected, he said.

However, Mr Hill later added that the Dunedin public had shown "phenomenal" support for the show and the big financial "hit" that the club could have faced because of the disruption would not be as bad as earlier feared.

More than 1000 people had attended the "packed" show on Saturday and yesterday.

One man who had driven south from near Christchurch to pick up his birds on Saturday, earlier than expected, said he had never encountered such extreme rain conditions on State Highway 1 near Ashburton.

He was clearly shaken after reaching Dunedin, and getting ready to sleep overnight before making the return trip with his birds yesterday, Mr Hill said.

Big poultry and cage bird shows could be hard hit by adverse weather events, and this had happened several times in the past 10 years. He had been affected himself.

Lauren Spicer, a goose breeder at Blue Mountain Station, near Fairlie, said she had to leave the show with her prize-winning geese early on Saturday afternoon, because of the red warning over weather in Canterbury and fears that, if the Orari River rose, it could prevent her from returning as planned yesterday.

"I have to get back," Miss Spicer said.

"We’ve got to get home."

"They’ve done a great job," Miss Spicer said of the show’s organisers.

She had won three prizes but told the organisers that she would waive any prize money to avoid any further financial disruption arising from the weather problems, she said.

Mr Hill was deeply appreciative that some people had offered to waive some or all of their prize money because of the unexpected weather disruption.

It would be some time before the final financial position was determined, but if the finances permitted, he would like to see everyone who had won a prize collecting some or all of it, rather than the money being given back to the club.

He was delighted about the way the Dunedin public had rallied round and strongly supported the club.

He was also grateful for the strong support that had been shown by some visiting bird fanciers, who, despite flood risks to their own properties, had deliberately delayed their departure yesterday to support the Dunedin show organisers and to give the public a better display of birds.


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